Retired Sam Donaldson Slammed, Praised Within Media for Endorsing Michael Bloomberg

February 20th, 2020 2:30 PM

Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi reported on Wednesday that opinions within the media are split on whether “famously feisty former ABC anchor” Sam Donaldson should have endorsed Mike Bloomberg for president.

“I’m backing Mike Bloomberg,” Donaldson says in an Instagram video for the Bloomberg campaign. “Bloomberg can beat Trump.” The retired newsman claimed that the wealthy Democrat is also “a great leader” and “a great role model for our children that the rest of the world looks up to.”

In a phone interview, Donaldson told Farhi: “I’ve been retired for seven years now, and I am not restrained by the ethics and procedures of a business I’m no longer a part of.”

The 85-year-old former newsman also noted: “I’ve never felt this way before, but I do think the country faces a threat in Donald J. Trump. He is a sick and ignorant man. I feel if we don’t turn back, we’ll never get back to where we were as a nation. And I think Bloomberg is in the strongest position to take him on.”

Farhi admitted that the newsman’s endorsement “seems unlikely to sway many voters,” but “it certainly got the attention of journalists and former journalists, whose reactions have ranged from ‘Attaboy!’ to ‘How could you?!’”
“Never thought I’d see this,” tweeted Brit Hume, the longtime Fox News analyst who worked with Donaldson for decades at ABC.

“Donaldson is free to do as he pleases, but it’s disappointing and damaging that he felt his endorsement of a presidential candidate was more important than preserving the integrity of the institution that he served so well for most of his life,” wrote the Poynter Institute’s Tom Jones. “With all due respect to Donaldson, I’m not sure his endorsement helps Bloomberg as much it hurts journalism.” 

Farhi also quoted former Washington Post editor Leonard Downie Jr., who said there’s a distinction between expressing opinions and outright advocacy of a candidate. The latter, he suggested, goes too far. "Since he covered presidents in particular, so well and so aggressively, such an endorsement does appear to be a misuse of his considerable journalistic credibility and reputation."

The headline inside the Post underlined it: "Former Post editor calls endorsement a misuse of journalistic credibility."

Farhi noted some old ABC colleagues were supportive. "Sam is a retired and private citizen. He can endorse anyone he likes," said former ABC producer Bob Crawford. Meredith Wheeler, who once wrote for Donaldson, added "Would it be meaningful if those of us who know Sam issued a joint statement supporting his right to speak out as a private citizen with a particularly deep knowledge of the office of the president?"

Farhi noted this isn't Sam's first partisan step. He donated to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2016, and in 2018, he endorsed Jeff Apodaca in the Democrat primary for governor of New Mexico, including this ad: 

As NewsBusters previously reported, Donaldson isn’t the only TV personality to endorse Bloomberg. Judy Sheindlin – star of the Judge Judy television program -- came on ABC’s The View to demonstrate her support for the former mayor’s campaign.